Arts festivals, classes, and commissions — oh my!

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Binghamton JulyFest has come and gone once again, and I’m seriously considering skipping it next year. It is So. Hot. It is So. Exhausting. (If they decide to move the “Artists in Action” section back to the shady courthouse lawn, from the brick oven of Washington Street, I’ll look on it more favorably.) It takes me almost a week to recover. It was fun, of course — not party-city with Mary Robertson & family, as I’d expected, but there was good company all around. I spoke to some lovely people, shrugged off the inevitable idiots (“Did you paint all these by hand yourself?”) for the most part, and made some sales — enough to pay for admission and a little more, though nowhere near what I made last year. That may have been partly due to skipping Sunday, however — violent thunderstorms were forecast and Ron Sall, the super-hospitable festival coordinator, told us we were free to go if we felt the need. I felt the need, as did many others. Of course the thunderstorms didn’t materialize until late afternoon. Of course. This coming Saturday is Johnson City Carousel Day.

The class list for my  Introduction to Oil Painting course, at Your Home Public Library in Johnson City, was filled more than a week before the class starts, due partly to the handouts I distributed at JulyFest, and also to the distribution of the class description to the FASST (Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier) membership, for which I’m mightily grateful — also, I presume, to the Library newsletter, events calendar, postings, and Facebook event.Intro to Oil Painging So looking forward to it (it starts a week from today) and a bit anxious — having to rein myself in so I don’t spend all my earnings on class materials I didn’t think to include in the initial price!

Meanwhile, I’m about ready to start on a commission — a piece ordered through the “Custom Order” function on Etsy. (See my shops at www.greenboat.etsy.com, and www.GreenBoatVintage.etsy.com .) I am so psyched about this painting. It started out vaguely enough, with a request for “a painting of a contra dance,” and I rather expected it to disappear when the client saw pricing and started answering hard questions… but that didn’t happen! She’s made a down-payment, signed a commission contract, and for the most part approved the initial composition sketch — some minor changes forthcoming by request — and I can’t wait to get started painting. It’s a very ambitions composition — will post progressives here and on my artist/designer Facebook page (click “Like Me on Facebook” in the right-hand column) — and a real challenge. You know how I love a challenge!

My eyes are still not working right and it looks like I’ll need to fit in retinal surgery sometime soon — and perhaps vision therapy to re-train my brain — but that will be as it will be. I just need to see better.

On with the show!

Coming up in August!

Stillness and Motion
Apples in a White Bowl, by Mary Robertson – 30 x 24 in., oils on canvas
Unlikely Dance: Beethoven Oaks, by Glenda Blake – 48 x 30 in., oils on canvas

Throughout the month of August 2014 the Broome County Public Library presents “Stillness and Motion,” a joint exhibit of still life and dance paintings by artists Glenda Blake and Mary Robertson.

Artist and designer Glenda Blake received a grant from the Community Foundation for South Central New York’s Artist Fund for the series Unlikely Dance, featured in “Stillness and Motion.” She began painting as a teenager, and, after a hiatus of thirty-plus years, resumed under the guidance of New England impressionist June Latti. Traditional dance is a frequent subject of her work in both oils and colored pencil. She has exhibited throughout the Northeast, and is currently teaching oil painting at Your Home Public Library in Johnson City, NY (July 28-August 25).

Taking up painting later in life, award-winning fine artist Mary Robertson has been painting for over thirty-five years now, studying locally with both William Grausgruber and the late Michael Tanzer, and teaching her own workshops on painting. Oils are her primary medium, along with watercolor and acrylic, and still life a favorite subject. Mary was Artist-in-Residence at Riverfront Antiques in Binghamton, NY.

Both artists have exhibited their work with the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier, at the Community Foundation for South Central New York, and at the Broome County Arts Council as well as in other regional venues. Their common ground is a love of clear colors and dramatic light.

Study oil painting with me at Your Home Library

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a notice that an artist and teacher I know was offering an introductory drawing course at Your Home Library, my hometown library here in Johnson City. Soon after, I stopped in at the library to inquire as to whether they’d like to offer a course in painting: it seemed that they would!

Your Home Library, Johnson City, NY
Your Home Library, Johnson City, NY

Andrea Tillinghast, the new library director is full of new ideas, and was excited about adding a painting class to the library’s growing list of course offerings. She graciously showed me around the building. It’s beautiful, a historic building from the late 19th century with additions from the early 20th, and what a lovely second-floor classroom space it features. Originally built as a dining room, with a large original kitchen attached, it features a wealth of windows. (Unfortunately, the building has no elevator, so the classes are will not be handicapped accessible.) Now the questions are scheduling, and whether the space is viable for a late-spring/early-summer class. The one window-mounted air-conditioning unit in the room needs to be adequately wired before we can find out.

Andrea has verbally approved my proposed course budget and, I have to admit, I’m eager to get this project in gear, to start teaching. I’m delighted that, as the local community college offers fewer and fewer non-credit art courses in favor of job-skill and professional certification training, local libraries are beginning to pick them up. As the forms of literacy change from hard-copy to electronic, what a wonderful form of human face-to-face knowledge-sharing classes like these are for libraries.

To learn when my course will run, please click the “Follow” button in the right-hand column, and I’ll let my followers know as soon as Introduction to Oil Painting at Your Home Public Library is scheduled. Or “Like” my artist page on Facebook (left-hand column), and I’ll publicize it there too.

In the meantime, I’m going to be visiting the library more often. I hope you will too — and ask about my painting course while you’re there!

An emerging new process, and The Joy of Dancing

KwanYin and Chrysanthemums, 20x16 in., oils on canvas
KwanYin and Chrysanthemums, 20×16 in., oils on canvas

Two weeks and two days ago I had eye-muscle surgery. Nothing scarier for an artist than eye surgery, except maybe encroaching blindness. I’ve had this wonky left eye, which tracked upward and to the left of my right eye, since I was a kid. All along there were murmurings about the possibility of corrective surgery, but as time went on either the opthamologist was discouraging it or I was avoiding it. Prism arrangements in my glasses lenses brought the disparate images together, until recently. My optometrist encouraged me to see a specialist about the surgery — for real — because the maxxed-out prisms were no longer adequate to the task and he was concerned that my right eye would lose sight to the dominant and errant left. I’d already lost some depth perception, and had a growing cataract in the right eye. So I did it. Quite a do, and I’m still recovering. My eye is still not tracking quite properly all the time, but the surgeon said it would take six weeks to heal so I’m still hoping it’ll all straighten out. Meanwhile the cataract in the right eye has grown significantly in density, so that’s scheduled for surgery in May.

Hasn’t stopped me from painting, however — in fact, I’ve been quite productive. In my last post I talked about a paint-together still life session with Mary Robertson and Jan Wood (just before my surgery), and I’ve finished the painting I started that day, Kwan Yin and Chrysanthemums. Using a process new to me, I painted in semi-transparent glazes (mixed colors thinned with oil/resin medium) over my initial underpainting, saving the lightest lights and darkest darks for last. I love the result. So I started another — Henry and Rebecca — and have worked on a couple of earlier underpainted pieces, Demeter and Rebecca.

Demeter 04 -- almost finished!
Demeter 04 — almost finished!

 

Rebecca 03 -- progress!
Rebecca 03 — progress!

 

Henry and Rebecca 02 -- first color glazes
Henry and Rebecca 02 — first color glazes

These last two had given me problems due to my use of Turpenoid Natural for thinning the paint in the underpainting, but they did finally dry and I’m quite pleased with their progress. I’m close to finishing Demeter, thanks to a lovely paint-together session at Mary’s studio today.

This painting in transparent layers over a show-through underpainting has intrigued me for some time, and although I’d tried it before, to a limited extent, I’m finding it really freeing as an overall technique, That, plus saving the lightest lights and darkest darks for last — a lesson from John Singer Sargent — and I’m in a whole different ballfield than before: one I like a lot.

Meanwhile, my first long drive alone since surgery was the hundred-mile trip to Ithaca and back, to help take down the Joy of Dancing exhibit at the Tompkins County Public Library, where my Unlikely Dance series was the cornerstone. What a wonderful space, and wonderful show. My thanks once again to Sally Grubb, Scottish Country and contra dancer, exhibit coordinator at TCPL, and curator of this show. I got some photos before we disassembled it. A wonderful review of the show is here.

Another painting started in a paint-together

KwanYin with Flowers 01
KwanYin with Flowers 01 — 16×20 in., oil on canvas, unfinished

Actually, I haven’t renewed my membership in FASST, the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier. I think my membership dues were due this last summer, but I haven’t been happy with the organization, with its muddle of amateur and professional affiliations, and its largely amateur exhibitions. But I have made some wonderful friends there, including Mary Robertson, mentioned in my last post. I’m thinking of renewing now.

Today we painted together at the temporary FASST gallery in the Oakdale Mall, in Johnson City, NY. Jan Wood, president of FASST, joined us. Thanks to Mary’s husband Rudy, who fetched her forgotten canvas and her clamp light, we set up a simple still life with the flowers and pots that Mary brought and the KwanYin figurine that I brought, and did our underpaintings. We also took photos for use in finishing our paintings. It was a very happy couple of hours.

Mary Robertson - Still Life at the FASST mall gallery
Mary Robertson – still life at the FASST mall gallery. My underpainting at right.

Meanwhile, a couple of days ago one of my singing partners from Diamonds in the Rough brought me a copy of last week’s Ithaca Times newspaper, which included an art critic’s review of the “Joy of Dancing” show at the Tompkins County Library. I was flabbergasted and delighted by what he said about my work. Wow! Thank you, Warren Greenwood!

Re-entry!

Still Life at Mary's studio
Photo of still life set-up at Mary Robertson’s studio

It’s been one heckuva winter. Felled by first one virus and then another, I’ve been doing pretty much nothing for about two months while it snowed and froze outside. Still have the residual fatigue and cough, but last week I started painting again, thanks to my artist-friend Mary Robertson, who invited me to a still life session at her studio a few blocks away.

Cutler Maples_03
Unfinished, stage 03: Cutler Maples, 16×20 in., oils on canvas*

I’m not happy with the underpainting I did that day, but the activity has spurred me on to work more on a figural landscape I started last summer, which has been sitting on a shelf in my studio since July.

And that’s what I worked on when Mary came to my studio this week. Painting is such a solitary occupation, it’s great to occasionally have someone nearby to bounce things off of.

Study for Demeter 01
Unfinished, stage 01: Study for Light Within/Light Without: Demeter, 16×20 in., oils on canvas*

I’ve also done a couple more underpaintings for 16×20 in. oil studies for another large-ish series of 24×30 in. pieces, this time underpainting in burnt umber rather than cadmium red. I wasn’t sure at first what the unifying series theme would be, but as I worked in Photoshop composing the pieces, it came to me that all the pieces are explorations of interior figures in indoor light modified by outdoor light from windows. The figures are variously live or statuary. The series is tentatively titled Light Within/Light Without.

Rebecca_01
Unfinished, stage 01: Study for Light Within/Light Without: Rebecca, 16×20 in., oils on canvas*

But the first two underpaintings are not drying, and I’m wondering if that’s due to the citrus-based solvent I used for the first time, Turpenoid Natural. Has anyone else had this problem? I’ve learned, since buying it, that citrus-based solvents are actually more toxic than plain old unscented mineral spirits. I use solvents only on underpaintings, so toxicity’s not a major concern, but after this first experience with TurpNat I’m switching to the mineral spirits. In the meantime I’ve tried spraying the first piece — Demeter — with touch-up/damar varnish, which I’ve read somewhere will help it dry. If it works — fingers crossed — I’ll try it on Rebecca. Any advice/suggestions welcome! [UPDATE: I’ve done some online research, and sure enough artists are complaining about excessive drying times when Turpenoid Natural is used as solvent or medium in a painting. An advisory group on art media suggests using it for only brush-cleaning. And the damar varnish has just lain sticky and wet over the wet parts of the Demeter underpainting. Looks like a re-do on these two pieces.]

Have to take it slowly still, but it’s sure good to be painting again.

*”Like” my Facebook page at left, for access to the ongoing progress on these pieces — see my photo albums for each piece as it develops.

Yuletide is coming on…

Our Yule tree
Our Yule tree, with its growing collection of birds in the branches

After a wonderful closing reception on December 6, I’ve taken down Unlikely Dance at the Broome County Arts Council gallery space — leaving two studies that were sold — and the six paintings are back in my studio for a couple of weeks before going to Ithaca for

GoldenClouds: Study 1
GoldenClouds: Study 1 – sold
Golden Clouds: Study 2
Golden Clouds: Study 2 – sold

three months for a small-group show called “For the Joy of Dance,” at the Tompkins County Public Library. (The opening reception for that show will be in February, though it’ll be on view January through March.) It’s like having old friends come home, only to leave again.

RiverRead show
My show at RiverRead Books

Meanwhile, my smaller dance series is hanging, in part, in the lovely RiverRead Books shop in downtown Binghamton, That show includes a series of large heads of dancers wearing floral crowns, which I’ve never shown before. The opening was quiet, but the music of Idlewild was full of life.

And I’m offering earrings and cards for sale at Old Barn Hollow Local Food and Artisan Market.

GreenBoat Gallery earrings
GreenBoat Gallery earrings

The tree is up, in our front room, the cards are mailed, and shopping looms; as I did last year, I’ll go to Boscov’s, the local Pennsylvania-based old-fashioned department store which anchors Binghamton’s downtown shopping district, with possible side trips to RiverRead and Tom’s Coffee, Cards, and Gifts. And it looks like we’ll have a record number of family coming to our house for Christmas dinner 2013 — eighteen at last count!

Yulecard 2013
Wings of Desire / Snowy Rooftops, Johnson City NY – our holiday card this year — next year I’ll sell them

To Be Published… Soon!

Morris 1: Half-Gyp is one of the images requested by both Blick and Vestal Life. 20 x 16 in., oils on canvas
Morris 1: Half-Gyp is one of the images requested by both Blick and Vestal Life. 20 x 16 in., oils on canvas. It will be in my December show at RiverRead Books, 5 Court St., Binghamton

Through entirely separate channels, my work is soon to be published in two different commercial venues.

Vestal Life Magazine
Vestal Life Magazine

The first is Vestal Life, a full-color ad-supported magazine put out by a Philadelphia-area publisher.

Their publication manager called the Broome County Arts Council, who suggested a story on my Unlikely Dance project and the exhibit in the gallery space there — so I’ve sent a write-up and photos to VL for the December issue. (What a great support system BCAC is for their members.)

Sample page from Dick Blick
Sample page from a Blick catalog — this is a treatment similar to what I’ll get in the spring catalog.

Then the creative director for Dick Blick, my longtime favorite mail-order and web-based art supplier, emailed in response to some sort of survey form I’d filled out; in return for an endorsement of their house-brand oil paints (which I use, and ARE great — no problem with that endorsement) my words, artwork, name, and website address will be shown in conjunction with some of their products in their spring catalog supplement. (She requested specific images she’d found on my Fine Art America site.) How cool is THAT?! Very exciting!

Completed Unlikely Dance series premieres at the Broome County Arts Council

Unlikely Dance at BCAC
Unlikely Dance, hung in the small gallery at the Broome County Arts Council

In the days leading up to it, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, either artistically or socially. I had six large paintings to show for a year and a half of work, but they seemed dwarfed by even the smaller gallery at the Broome County Arts Council. Due to personnel changes at the BCAC I was hanging the show myself, but suddenly felt unequal to the task. Earlier there had been scheduling and communications misunderstandings. And I’m not good at schmoozing. In short, I succeeded in making myself crazy-anxious about November First Friday’s BCAC opening night of Unlikely Dance.

But now November 1 has come and gone, and the opening came off beautifully — well attended despite the many other Binghamton First Friday events happening all over town, fun, and yes, I believe I was reasonably socially adept. There were old friends, newer friends, Facebook followers, family members, the director of the funding foundation, and some simply interested people I’d never met before; there were dancers who’d been my models, dancers who knew my models, a high school friend/classmate I hadn’t seen since then, models I’ve drawn at the Windsor figure drawing sessions, supportive artist friends, and my GP doc.

Ballyclare dancers at the opening
Several of the Ballyclare Irish Dancers showed up, and wanted a photo with “their” painting. Photo courtesy of Sharon Ball / BCAC
My husband Leo heeded my call for chips and salsa and showed up in the nick of time to save the day, keeping the food table from going bare (those incredible cookies from the Gallaghers went REALLY fast!).

That morning I’d managed to edit and upload high-res photos of each of the paintings so they were available as prints and cards on my Fine Art America site, and then to put together a handout flyer about myself and the grant, including a hard-copy order form for people not comfortable with shopping online. (I encourage you to order directly from Fine Art America.)

At the suggestion of BCAC director Sharon Ball, I’d matted, framed, and hung some studies for the paintings, and they not only filled out the space but seemed to truly interest onlookers, and sparked a lot of conversation. In fact, one of the small studies is already sold — to a morris dance and Facebook friend who’s been a great support throughout this process. And he made sure to tell me EXACTLY what he liked about each painting. In fact, I was surprised and pleased by the number of people who felt compelled to lead me to their favorite pieces and tell me just what they liked about them. I have always avoided the artists at solo openings — not sure why, but I think I’m afraid I’ll over-participate, or talk about myself rather than their shows — but from now on I’ll try not to draw back like that. I love talking about my work, and I must assume other artists do too.

And did I mention the ego/approval rush of the whole thing? And the ribbon-tied garlic bouquet? And the date-night out afterwards with my sweetie? Yeah, those were really good too.

Next up: two or three new, smaller dance paintings — the start of a new, unfunded series on a recent English Country dance — to round out my December show at RiverRead Books. Then, in January, Unlikely Dance moves on to Ithaca, and from there to the Community Foundation for South Central New York.
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The “Unlikely Dance” project was made possible by a grant from the Artists Fund of the Community Foundation for South Central New York, facilitated by the Broome County Arts Council.